Thursday, September 13, 2012

Early Neon

September 12, 2012

Last Thursday was Todd’s birthday.  We went whale watching with about 12 friends from the Olón area on a boat tour that our friends Doug and Debby, (and his brother, Don) arranged, and it was a fun day! We were accompanied  on the boat by another group of six (Italians, I think).
The barcos shove off from Puerto Lopez (45 minute drive north of us), and there are many tour operators to choose from. The day was overcast – as usual, this time of year – and September is pretty much the end of whale season (the best time to see the humpback whales here – ballenas jorobadas – is in July and August), but still, we followed a pod of up to 7 huge whales and a baby for about 2 hours. They swam and breached right in front of the boat. Amazing!   We were joined by a second boat from another tour operator for the show.

 We’ve had a lot of guests and friends take these whale-watching expeditions (about an hour boat-ride from shore), and many have gotten spectacular pictures of whales breaching 20-30 feet out of the water, or blowing huge water spouts, or “somersaulting” or capturing a photo magic moment of a large tail fin diving and flapping inches from the boat.
And we saw all that….I just wasn’t able to get any real good pics of this (gotta be quick on the shutter for these), so most of my pictures just show a “white-water” back-splash by the time my camera and I caught it (“REALLY…..there was a GEE-NORMOUS whale just here…”)
Most of my pics turned out
like this....
Nevertheless, I am posting the best photos that I managed to get.


After a couple of hours, both boats anchored just off the  Isla “Horno de Pan” (“Bread Oven Island”), a popular dive spot,  for a light lunch  and a chance for those who wanted to jump in the water for some snorkeling.
After we got back to shore, we shopped a tienda in town that sells “palo santo” products.  Palo Santo is the name of a tree species native to South America and is considered to be sacred (and according to one source I read, is related to Frankincense and Myrrh).
In Spanish, “Palo Santo” is literally translated as “holy tree” or “holy wood” and has been used for centuries for ceremonial and medicinal purposes.  The wood chips make for an intoxicating smelling incense – that also repels mosquitos – and the pure essential oil from the tree has some amazing healing properties for a number of ailments.
Todd and I are enthusiastic fans of the authentic, hand crafted oil (not exactly cheap),  and when we have it, we regularly use it on our achy joints and muscles pains, and within a day or two, experience noticeable relief. It can also be made into a tea to drink.
One of the more interesting and wonderful properties about authentic palo santo essential oil is that it can only be extracted from dead trees or branches, so no live tree is sacrificed.
Our friends,
Doug and Debby
As mentioned in my last post, the new owner (Sarah) of our former Olón home visited for ten days recently to see her house for the first time, and I think it’s safe to say she had a good time while she was here, and happy with her new digs, and the area.
Todd and I also want to welcome new neighbors Steve and his wife Beckey (sp?) from Arkansas, who bought Randy and Fonda’s house. We’ve only had a chance to briefly chat with Steve a couple of times; he is friendly and interesting (in fact, he reminds me a lot of Randy…. *). We haven’t met Becky yet, (she is coming down later), but looking forward to getting to know them is better.
And welcome back, Karl (who bought one of the last lots available in Jardines de Olón and is now beginning his building project).

And as also mentioned before, we are currently living in a long-term Olón rental owned by Ecuadorian landlords, who have been wonderfully kind, and caring, and helpful. We plan on eventually building on the lot we own in Jardines de Olón, and are thankful for the comfortable place and wonderful neighborhood we live in now, while we plan and execute that project.


Since we moved in last January, I’ve been working on making our new abode more “homey” and functional – I think with some success, though “decorating” a house here can be a challenge unless you’re into fluorescent colors, gaudy designs and cheap Chinese crap. Yes, more subdued, sophisticated household items and furnishings can be found (for those who can find it and afford it). But I defy even the most experienced shopper in Ecuador to find a decent set of sheets/bed linens that match/quality mattress pads/towels, and so on, without much aggravation, and without handing over your left leg to pay for them.

For sure, to those who are moving here, BRING THOSE WITH YOU!
I’ve sort of settled on an “early neon/mid 70’s” theme for our rental and actually pretty tickled with the practical shelves I bought and had installed in our kitchen by a friend  who doesn’t have the greatest  “eye” for leveling these things. But …oh well…
I also spent last night decorating our office room with some posters I found (free turista POSTERS!)...USING SCOTCH TAPE to hang them….The idea of this would have HORRIFIED ME a few years ago, but now, I’m really getting into it and pretty darn happy with the results.
The cinder-block entertainment center I’m about to create is next.


* Randy and Fonda – if you are reading this, just want you to know you are missed, and wishing you the best!

Sunday, September 2, 2012


September 2, 2012

Courtesy of my brother, Jack
Well, it’s been waaaay too long since I had a chance to write, but it has been a hectic month!
Primarily, we’ve been preoccupied with our hairy daughter, Daisy, who went to the vet a few weeks ago to undergo a full hysterectomy to eliminate her heat cycles once and for all. (When our friend and part-time neighbor, Elizabeth first encouraged us to adopt her a couple of years ago, Daisy had a sterilization procedure done by a local Olon vet – that apparently did not include taking out all of “her equipment”, unbeknownst to any of us at the time).
Courtesy of Jack
Todd, “Daddy Doug”, and I took her to our vet’s office near Valdivia for the operation, including a day or so for recovery…..Poor Daisy…the look on her face when we had to leave her there was so sad and confused. 

Unfortunately, the surgery did not go as well as planned. When our vet, Dr. Otto opened her up, he discovered that her uterus had been removed, however her ovaries were still intact, but covered with tumors (apparently non-malignant, but sexually transmitted, from the information we’ve been able to gather so far). He tried to remove some of them, but felt that he was perhaps not qualified to operate to the extent planned, so he sewed her back up, recommended that she be given an injection at the start of her next “heat” phase  to prevent it, until further surgery can be performed (most likely in Guayaquil, with more sophisticated options).
We brought her home to recuperate and let her stitches mend, did our best to keep her inside at our new rental place or keep her quietly sedated on Doug and Pam’s patio, but it’s nearly impossible to keep an original “beach stray” from well….straying……or staying inside…Or scratching her stomach stitches with her paws.
Her stitches broke open, and because of our concern over infection, we took her back to Dr. Otto’s for another week’s recuperation under his watchful and caring eyes.

She’s back home now, stitches healed – and DAMNED happy to be back, though she lost weight during these last few weeks of trauma. But other than being thinner than normal, she’s more or less her old self – and she will fatten back up in no time because of all of us who love her. She shamelessly works all of us for meals and snacks and doesn’t lack for “being spoiled”.

In the meantime, we’ve had many, many visitors come through. It’s been fun to meet all of them. A few of them have stayed at “Sarah’s Place” (our former Olón home) – in particular a fun and interesting family from Montana, and a darling young couple (3rd time guests - who are from London, teaching in Quito), who brought his British parents visiting Ecuador for the first time.
Cynthia and Libby.
A couple of intrepid and adventurous travelers,
who had chance to meet each other in Montanita.
In addition to that, a number of new expats are arriving to our coastal area and getting settled in. Many of them are building, and Todd and I are watching, observing everyone’s experience. We will eventually be constructing a house on the lot we own in Jardines de Olon, but we’re in no hurry until we’re better educated and have a clearer vision of the structure we want to build within our budget.
In the meantime, we are quite content in our cute 2 bd/2ba Ecuadorian long-term rental in a very friendly local Olon neighborhood, a few blocks away from our Jardines property.

Will and Rebecca who are
building a property in the north
area of Olon.

View from the lot in nearby San Jose
that our friends Judy and Richard are building.
Photo courtesy of Judy

Heather and Dave
World Citizens,
Courtesy of

Bill and Colleen Baker
As I mentioned in my last post, expats Dave and Heather, who live in Ayangue recently instigated “gringo get-togethers” a couple of times a week at various locations, which has been a great way for everyone to get to know each other better and exchange information, especially for the “newbies”.
And for the most part, the newcomers are bringing in a breeze of new enthusiasm, fresh and un-jaded perspectives, and  special talents, passions and ideas, so we have learned from them as well.


Todd and I don’t always get to these because we’re working, but they are fun, and we have met and gotten to know delightful new friends. That, and there have been just a ton of other fun parties recently (and this is SLOW season).

…I NEVER thought I’d hear these words come out of my mouth, but honestly: “I’m tired of partying” and look forward to the quiet days when I can just cuddle up in bed with a good book, a fun movie, and Todd.
 Lastly, Todd and I want to welcome Sarah R. (Aussie who lives in Huntington Beach) who bought our Olon house earlier this year, sight unseen. She arrived earlier this week to see the house for the first time, and to kick back. Welcome to your new home and the ‘hood Sarah!